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We Estimate That Their Employee Turnover Is High

, , , , , , , | Working | September 15, 2023

It’s been over five years, and I feel it’s finally safe enough to tell another story from That Library In Ohio. Others are linked at the end.

First, it’s important to understand how our schedules worked. We were divided into four groups to cover the weekend. We’ll call the two relevant ones Group A and Group B. I was part of Group A. That meant I worked Friday or Saturday — never both and never Sunday. Group B worked Friday or Sunday — never both and never Saturday. (The third and fourth groups worked similarly but flip-flopped.) So, basically, I worked every even Friday and every odd Saturday; it was a fairly reliable schedule and never changed, so I knew months out when I’d be working.

My family was planning an out-of-state vacation together, lasting from Monday to Wednesday of the week in question. I requested the three days off with plenty of time in advance, and [Bad Boss] approved it readily.

Then, that month’s schedule dropped. I was supposed to be scheduled that Friday, so I would actually be off Saturday to Wednesday. [Bad Boss], however, gave me Friday off… and then scheduled me for Saturday AND Sunday, both! She wrote it up so Monday was “one of my weekend days”, which meant I was using Tuesday and Wednesday for vacation. This meant I was only burning up sixteen hours of vacation time instead of twenty-four, but it also meant I was working the entire weekend — something that had NEVER happened to me nor anyone else in the library system in all the YEARS I worked there. This also impacted all my plans to actually pack and prepare for my vacation. And [Bad Boss] did this all without even asking me and considered herself to be “doing me a favor.”

I complained to [Bad Boss] about this, saying it was against our scheduling policy to put me on Sunday when I was in Group A. She insisted that there was no such written policy. It was largely verbal, tradition, and good faith. But the contract DID say were to have at least ONE actual weekend day off, meaning it was against the contract to have us work both Saturday and Sunday. She continued to insist that she was in the right because pre-approved vacation was only “estimated” time off, and that I should be grateful that she was saving me vacation time I could use later.

I contacted the Union over this, which resulted in several very, very repetitive meetings with me, the union representative, [Bad Boss], [Bad Assistant Director], and [Bad HR Guy].

The gist of most discussions was:

Bad HR Guy: “Time off is only an ‘estimate’. We can change it based on staffing needs.”

Union Rep: “The contract says that when vacation is approved, you must fill in those hours with another employee. You can’t fill in a vacationer with herself!”

Bad Assistant Director: *To me* “You should have come to us first before going to the Union.”

Union Rep: “She did go to [Bad Boss] first. The answer was, ‘No,’ and, ‘We’re right and not changing it.’”

Bad HR Guy: “That’s because pre-approved time off is only an ‘estimate.’ We might have to change it based on staff availability, like we did in this case.”

Union Rep: “If there was a staffing issue, why did you even approve of the vacation in the first place?”

Bad HR Guy: “Time off is an ‘estimate.’”

Bad Assistant Director: “And you really should have said something before going immediately to the Union and getting them involved.”

Me: “I had no idea I would ever be scheduled for Sunday! I’m not part of Group B; why would I expect this whole weekend out of all weekends in the year to be the one I randomly get scheduled to work out of nowhere?”

Bad Boss: “If you wanted Sunday off, you should have requested it as vacation, too.”

Me: “How was I supposed to know you’d even put me on the schedule then? I’m a Saturday worker!”

Bad Boss: *Shrug* “If you wanted Sunday off, you should have put in for that day as vacation, too.”

Me: “That is unbelievable. Do I have to request every single Sunday as vacation from now on just to make sure I have one weekend day off during the week?”

Bad HR Guy: “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

Me: “If you’re going to claim all of our pre-approved vacation can change at any time, how do I know you won’t just cancel any vacation I have because you want me to work instead?”

Bad HR Guy: “I don’t see that happening.”

Me: “But if it’s an ‘estimate,’ you’re maintaining that you have the authority to do just that.”

Bad HR Guy: “I don’t see that happening.”

Me: “Or, if it’s just an ‘estimate,’ you could force me to take more vacation hours than I want, burning up my vacation without my consent.”

Bad HR Guy: “I don’t see that happening.”

Bad Assistant Director: “[My Name], you’re just making things up that never happened. And I don’t see the issue. You get two weekend days off—” *Friday and Monday, NOT actual weekend days* “—and you’re not scheduled Monday to Wednesday. Plus, you get to save one full vacation day to use later. I don’t see your problem. No one else has a problem with this.”

Me: “That’s because you all clearly think it’s acceptable for me to work both Saturday and Sunday when no one else ever has. How can I believe this won’t happen again?”

Bad Boss: “We just need you to staff this once.”

Union Rep: “If staffing was an issue, why did you approve [My Name]’s vacation in the first place? Or why didn’t you try to find another employee? The contract does allow for overtime in cases like this.”

Bad Assistant Director: “Vacation requests are always done on an ‘estimated’ basis. Things change, and we need to be able to change them. I don’t know why you’re so mad. Everyone else we’ve done this to is happy to save their vacation days for later in the year.”

It’s worth mentioning that it was November at this point, and I needed to use up a certain amount of vacation time or risk losing it.

Union Rep: “You didn’t even ask [My Name] if this is what she wanted.”

Bad HR Guy: “And she didn’t even come to any of us first.”

Me: “I talked to [Bad Boss].”

Union Rep: “And the answer was, ‘No.’’”

Bad Assistant Director: “That’s because vacation times are all ‘estimates.’ You have your Monday to Wednesday off. I don’t know why you’re complaining.”

Me: “You signed the paperwork for Monday to Wednesday as vacation, not weekend days.”

Bad Boss: “Everyone else is always happy to save their vacation time for later.”

Me: “As far as I know, no one else has ever had to work an entire weekend before.”

I hope you get the idea. We had half a dozen meetings saying the exact same thing. The Bad Bosses refused to back down no matter what. The vacation week came, and I wound up working both Saturday and Sunday and scrambling to get packed for Monday. By this time, I was eye-deep in searching for another job. We eventually reached a “compromise” in that the library would stop treating vacation as “estimates,” but by then, it was too late to do anything to impact me.

Several months passed before we got to that compromise; I landed my new job, and that library had to back-pay me for all my unused vacation time anyway.

Weathering A Boss Like This Is A Challenge
Moving On To Greeter Things
Look Up Some Books On Work/Life Balance
The (Water)Main Reason To Close
From Desk ‘Til Sawn

Weathering A Boss Like This Is A Challenge

, , , , , | Working | April 24, 2023

I have another story from That Library In Ohio, where this story and this story happened, among others.

It’s a frigid winter day, and we are in the middle of getting hammered by a blizzard. I get up early and attempt to shovel my driveway. The snow is about two feet deep at this point, and it takes three shovelfuls of snow just to clear a one-foot-by-one-foot square to the concrete. I constantly check my phone while I work, figuring it’s only a matter of time before the library closes due to the weather. Every single local school in the area has long since closed; some did last night.

Instead, I (and the rest of the library staff) get an email from our director. 

Director: “I just drove into work, and I was able to do it fine. Since I could do it, you can all do it. The library will remain open so the children have a place to go today. I expect everyone to arrive promptly for their shifts.”

I let out some very library-inappropriate language. There was a travel advisory out for the whole county. Plus, I had just reached the end of my driveway. The plows hadn’t even been down my road ONCE. There were two feet of snow down the entire residential street until the main road. No one else had attempted to drive it; there was not a single tire tread to be seen. And more snow is falling by the moment.

Maybe it was possible for [Director] to get to work. She had a massive SUV beast of a machine with four-wheel drive. The vast majority of the rest of us, me included, drove little sedans. It was about all we could afford. You don’t get rich working at a library — unless you’re a director.

At this point, I just propped my shovel against the siding, took a picture of my street, and contacted my immediate boss. I told her it was literally impossible for me to leave my residence right now. The snow in the road was EVEN WITH MY CAR DOOR. Even if I had left right then, between the roads and likely getting stranded, I never would have made it in time for my shift. 

(It’s worth mentioning that [Director] was also the type of boss who would write us up for being one single second late clocking in. She made it so difficult that I have multiple accounts from coworkers who realized they were going to be late while en route to their shift and simply turned around, went home, and called off sick because there was less backlash for doing so.)

This might be the only time my immediate boss supported my decision. But perhaps she knew I would have contacted the union over safety issues had she tried to force me to come in.

I wasn’t the only one. [Director]’s inbox was immediately flooded with messages from my coworkers who were in similar situations to mine and simply could not physically get to the library at all. [Director] wound up having to close for the day, not because of the weather (her words) but because she didn’t have enough staff to open the building.

Moving On To Greeter Things
Look Up Some Books On Work/Life Balance

Moving On To Greeter Things

, , , , , , | Working | November 19, 2019

(A few days before this incident, my boss took me aside into her office. The library was in the middle of making renovation plans. I had missed that meeting due to a vacation, so she was filling me in. It’s only at the tail end of the conversation that this happens:)

Boss: “So, how are things with you and your coworkers?”

Me: “I think things are great. When I don’t know something, I can always ask them for help. And they ask me to help when they need it. I think we have a great balance of strengths.”

Boss: “I received a complaint about you.”

Me: “What?”

Boss: “One of your coworkers, who wishes to remain anonymous, complained about you. You need to try to get along better with everyone.”

Me: “I thought we were getting along great. Who was it? No one ever spoke to me about a problem.”

Boss: “I can’t tell you that. Just try to get along better with everyone.”

Me: “Okay… then what is the problem? How can I fix it?”

Boss: “I can’t tell you that. It would give away who filed the complaint. You just need to get along better with your coworkers.”

Me: “How can I fix it if I don’t even know what the problem is?”

Boss: “Just get along better with your coworkers.”

(I leave her office, completely bewildered. I think and think and think about what could have happened, but I have no idea. The best I can come up with is that maybe my coworkers dislike me discussing what happened on the weekend or after work; I have been dealing with a lot of crap in my life, so maybe they don’t want to hear about it. I decide to keep conversation solely professional and only discuss work-related topics. If my coworkers ask me how I am, instead of telling the truth, I simply say, “I’m doing fine.” The day in question, I say hi to both my coworkers; however, I don’t think [Coworker #1] hears me as she immediately stalks to the back room with her back to us. None of us speaks much all day except to complete the work we have to do. It’s after closing, and two coworkers and I are running through the shutdown procedures. It’s my turn to do statistics, but I work on a very slow laptop. While the documents are processing, I do other tasks such as wiping down the computer keyboards and storing the mobile stations. As I work, I gather up all the items that need to be filed and put them on top of the counter since my other two coworkers are standing right in front of the drawers, doing their shutdown tasks. Once statistics are finished, I put my laptop in its locked case in the back room. I emerge and reach for the disinfecting wipes I left out, when [Coworker #1] calls me.)

Coworker #1: “Are you going to put this away?”

(She’s pointing to something on the countertop, but since she’s halfway across the room, I can’t see what item she means.)

Me: “Put what away?”

Coworker #1: *absolutely loses her mind and starts SCREAMING like a rabid banshee-harpy* “That’s it! I’m sick of you, [My Name]! Do your job! You have to do your job! This is your job! I’m sick of your attitude! If you don’t want to be here, you should just quit! I’m tired of you and your attitude! [Boss] has already talked to you about this!”

(I start hyperventilating. I’m already under a ton of stress from my personal life, and she sounds like she’s about to get violent.)

Me: “I… I am still working.”

(I point to the disinfecting wipes I’m trying to put away, but I can’t even pick them up because I’m shaking so badly.)

Coworker #1: “That’s bulls***! I know how you are! Don’t you bulls*** me! Do your d*** job already and cut the attitude! I’m so sick of you! You didn’t even say hi to me when I came in today! Just quit! Just get out of here and quit!”

Coworker #2: “[Coworker #1], you’re going too far. You need to stop.”

Coworker #1: “I am not! She’s the problem! She needs to do her job and stop trying to hide! If she hates it here so much she should just walk out that door and never come back! I don’t need to deal with her attitude! [Boss] has already talked to her and she’s still got that terrible attitude!”

(I grab the staff phone list and mobile phone and hide myself in the back room. I try contacting managers in turn, but since it’s late, no one is in their office. I am sobbing so hard I can barely speak. At last, I get ahold of the HR department — like #5 on the list — and brokenly explain what happened. I then throw up in the trash can. By that point, [Coworker #2] has chased [Coworker #1] out and tells me it is safe to leave. I have to call my family to drive me home because I am trembling so badly I can’t even drive. The next day, HR and the deputy director come to write up [Coworker #1]. She refuses to even speak to the HR personnel and strong-arms the deputy director into speaking to her alone. While [Coworker #1] does have seniority in the system, she is only part-time and everyone else in the room outranks her in terms of job title, including me. I don’t know what they tell her, but HR and the deputy director takes me aside, as well, and basically told me:)

HR: “We talked to [Coworker #1]. Now move on and act like it never happened.”

(The most ironic thing was, had [Coworker #1] kept her cool, I was planning on turning in my two week notice the next week because I had found another job due to the horrible nature of that library. Looking back, I realized this all stemmed from that one complaint. [Coworker #1] had gone to my boss and complained, “[My Name] doesn’t always say hello when I come to work for the day.” [Coworker #1] was always complaining about other people not greeting her. My boss handled it very poorly, and I blame her lack of conflict resolution skills. I also realize that [Coworker #1] had seen our boss talk to me in her office for an hour and assumed I was being berated. [Coworker #1] also assumed I was being clearly told what the problem was instead of being given a vague “get along with everyone,” so [Coworker #1] assumed I deliberately didn’t say hi to her instead of realizing that she simply didn’t hear my greeting. I am so glad to be away from there.)

Look Up Some Books On Work/Life Balance

, , , , , | Working | August 2, 2019

(I work in a library. My coworker gets invited to an out-of-state wedding and immediately requests that Friday off. It’s January, and the wedding isn’t until August. Three months later, the library announces its annual mandatory staff day training, and it happens to be the same day my coworker has already had approved for vacation. My boss takes my coworker aside.)

Boss: “You’re going to have to cancel your plans. Everyone is required to attend the training day.”

Coworker: “I know this, but I’m not canceling my plans. My vacation has already been approved before the staff day was even on the calendar. You and the deputy director have already signed the paperwork.”

Boss: “This is mandatory; you can’t get out of it.”

Coworker: “I already have my flight and hotel booked. I’m going to my friend’s wedding. You can’t un-approve of anything once the paperwork has already gone through.”

Boss: “I don’t like your attitude. When I was in your position, I worked at the library, held two other jobs, and went to school full time, and I always put the library first.”

Coworker: “That’s… good? But I’m still going to my friend’s wedding.”

Boss: “If you’re not at the training, we’ll write you up.”

Coworker: “I want to speak to a union rep about what they have to say about this.”

(Calls are made back and forth between the boss, union, coworker, deputy director, director, and human resources. The union argues that the already approved paperwork is binding, and that they will take any and all actions if the library denies my coworker her time off. The library very reluctantly relents.)

Boss: “I will have to mark this against you in your review; you’re not much of a team player.”

(The boss and the rest of upper management never let it go. For the rest of the time my coworker was employed by them, they held the fact that she missed a training day on a vacation that was approved even before the training was scheduled over her head.)

The (Water)Main Reason To Close

, , , , , | Working | June 29, 2018

(The city is working on its water mains, which results in the water being completely shut off in the library I work in. There is no estimated time when this will be complete; it could be hours, or it could be days. That means the library has no running water whatsoever for an indefinite amount of time, which includes the water fountains and restrooms.)

Director: “We can still open; people don’t stay here that long, anyway.”

Manager: *shocked* “But what about our staff? Some of them are scheduled for eight-hour shifts!”

Director: “What about them? Most of them bring water bottles or coffee. Heck, I’ll go out and buy a crate of water bottles for everyone.”

Manager: “What about the bathrooms?

Director: “What about the bathrooms?”

Employee #1: “If we’re going to work for eight hours, we’re going to need to use the bathrooms sooner or later.”

Director: “You can still use them; you just can’t flush.”

(At this point, every staff member within hearing range turns around and looks at her in total disgust.)

Manager: “You want us to keep using the same toilet all day?

Director: *as if it’s the most obvious thing in the whole world* “Yes. I don’t mind. I’ll be using the same toilets that haven’t been flushed. It doesn’t bother me.”

Employee #2: “But what about the smell? Do you want the whole library to smell like a cesspool?”

Director: *mumbles* “I don’t see the problem.”

Employee #1: “Think about the maintenance staff who has to clean after all that, too.”

Director: “I still don’t see what the big deal is. Most of the patrons don’t even go near the bathrooms.”

(At that point, the union representative walks in.)

Employee #1: “Hey, [Union Rep], did you hear? The city shut down water to the whole building.”

Union Representative: “If it’s shut off for more than two hours, we have to close: OSHA’s rules.”

(No one clapped because the director was there. She shot the Union Rep one heck of a death glare. She was PISSED OFF the entire rest of the day and sulked around her staff. It didn’t help when the water remained shut off for more than two hours, and she had to send everyone home with pay.)